Great Summer To Be a Tomato

Warm sun and moderate rain produced the best crop of tomatoes in the eleven years of our garden.   Caprese salad, pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil, tomato sauce, oven-dried tomatoes, bruschetta, tomato olive and mozzarella sandwiches with honey mustard, tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, tomato ice cream (kidding, so far) . . . it’s been tomatoes 24/7/365.

Maybe This Year

I am always most optimistic about the vegetable garden immediately after planting. This year, I think, the tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, basil, red leaf lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce, mesclun, beets, and pumpkins will be disease- and pest-free, plentiful, and photogenic. Gardening is an act of faith, but thank god I don’t have to live on the results.

Peat Bomb

After a day of gardening in the hot sun–turning over soil, spreading compost, pulling out weeds–I drove to Naples to buy four bales of peat moss.  I wanted 3.8 cubic foot bales, large, unwieldy and quite heavy it wet.  I paid inside the store, declined the clerk’s offer to “give you a hand with those”, and exited to the yard.  There was one stack of bales, taller than me, and they were stuck together from being wrapped tightly for shipping.  I could barely reach the nearest bale in the top row and couldn’t get purchase on the smooth plastic to lift or pull it towards me.  Maybe I could have walked behind the pile and pushed up on the bale to free it, but that would have required walking around all of the other piles of compost, top soil, and other bagged items that lined the edge of the yard.  I reached again, as far as I could, and grabbed a loose plastic flap on one side of the bale.  I pulled it and the bale moved a few inches.  I pulled again and angled the bale to the edge of the pile.  I pulled one more time, thinking the bale would slide off the pile into my waiting arms.  The flap gave, pulling its companion flaps with it.  The bale ripped open, spilling 1/4 of its contents–that would be .95 cubic feet–on my head, in my face, down my throat, in my shirt, on my arms, in my pants, down my legs, and into my shoes.   A cloud of superfine dried peat enveloped me, like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.  I sputtered, coughed, wiped peat from my eyes, blew my nose, and shook out my shirt and pants.  I  turned around, expecting other customers to be laughing at my folly.  No one noticed.  Finally I wrestled four bales into the truck from the pile’s grip, started the truck, and drove away, unimaginably dirty and uncomfortable.

Garden Guy Goads Gays–and Profits

Last week I reported on the Houston landscaping company that refused to do business with gay clients (Some of God’s Children). The New York Times reported on Saturday that The Garden Guy has picked up about $40,000 in new business and lost about $500 in existing business since the story broke of its anti-gay email. The story also confirmed my speculation that Garden Guy’s sexual-orientation discrimination does not violate Texas law.

Ralph Blumenthal, Landscapers Cause Furor by Shunning Gay Clients, The New York Times, 11-Nov-06

Some of God’s Creatures

This story raises interesting issues. Briefly, Michael Lord sought landscaping services from Garden Guy of Houston, Texas. Garden Guy responded by email: “I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.” (The Reuters story I read does not disclose how Lord’s presumed sexual preference entered his discussions with Garden Guy.) Lord forwarded Garden Guy’s email to friends, who forwarded it to friends, who forwarded it to friends and, as these things often go, the media picked up the story. In addition to patio pavers and organic fungus foilers, Garden Guy purveys opposition to gay marriage. Its home page features a passage from Ephesians 5:25-33 that ends with these words: “[A] man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Angry recipients of Lord’s forwarded email posted 26 pages of comments on a Garden Guy web forum, which Garden Guy has taken down.

This is my take on the issues.

  • The Reuters article I read on c/net quotes Garden Guy’s co-owner as saying “[w]e felt that it was our right as an American small business to choose who we do business with.” Unless there is a Texas state law to the contrary (I have not researched the question but I doubt such a law exists) I think she is correct. Garden Guy has the legal right to to do business with whom it chooses.
  • Michael Lord has the right to forward Garden Guy’s email. A sender generally has no reasonable expectation of privacy in emails. Email is an inherently insecure medium. There are a number of well-publicized cases in which embarrassing email messages made their way to in boxes around the world. I don’t think that Garden Guy has any invasion of privacy claim against Lord.
  • I also don’t think Garden Guy has a claim against Lord if its business suffers from this publicity. There is nothing defamatory about the forwarded email–it is Garden Guy’s words, after all, and similar sentiments are/were expressed on its website. (The Reuters article reports that Garden Guy’s site contained a link to www.nogaymarriage.com, but I didn’t see it when I visited the site as I wrote this post.) Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from speech’s consequences.
  • The Internet’s power to distribute information is breathtaking. Before the Internet and email, Garden Guy’s rebuff of Lord’s business would have been an unpleasant event known only to his circle of friends. Not any more. Garden Guy’s co-owner said “[w]hen we sent (the e-mail) we intended it for the client. We did not intend it to be some sweeping political statement for the world.” When every person with access to a keyboard and Internet connection can become William Randolph Hearst the power to create sweeping political statements is broad.
  • Before sending that flaming email message, sleep on it. Read it in sober and dispassionate daylight. You cannot control it once you hit send.
  • A gospel-spouting landscaping business named Garden Guy? A disrespected homosexual man named Lord? You can’t make this stuff up.

Sources: Reuters, Landscaping firm’s antigay e-mail sparks online fury, c/net News.com 09-Nov-06

Dictionary Detour

In yesterday’s Internet Law class we discussed trespass to chattels, a centuries-old tort claim that courts have applied to cases involving unauthorized access to another’s computer system. (See, e.g., eBay v Bidder’s Edge; Intel v Hamidi) I mentioned that last spring’s class had a spirited debate about the correct pronunciation of “chattel.” Many class members wanted to pronounce it “sha-TELL.” I insisted that it rhymes with “rattle” and found support from the audio pronunciation feature of the Visual Thesaurus website. I said yesterday that using the word chattel is, like using the word estoppel, a dead give way that the user is a lawyer. (Those who complete crossword puzzles regularly know both words but, like most knowledge acquired through familiarity with crossword puzzles, are not likely to use them in normal conversation.) That led to a question about the origin of chattel which I turned back on the class. (“Like stepping on a garden rake,” see My Name is Earl, “Larceny of the Kitty Cat”)

Someone stepped up. The etymology of chattel and estop, courtesy of Jesse Rodgers:

Chattel, circa 1225, from the Old French “chatel” meaning ‘property or goods’. See “cattle”, which is the Norman-Picard form of the same word. Cattle, circa 1250, from the Anglo-French “catel” meaning property. From Modern Latin “captale” meaning property or stock. Also “capitalis” meaning principal, or chief (from caput, “head”). Original sense of the word was of moveable property, especially livestock but not limited to “cows” until 1555.
Estop: 1531, from the Anglo-French “estopper” to stop, bar or hinder (especially in a legal sense, by one’s declaration or prior act), from Old French “estoupe”, and then from Latin “stuppa” meaning a ‘tow’ used as a plug (stopping a flow of something?)
From the Online Etymology Dictionary www.etymonline.com

Thanks Jesse.